How to make Broadway more Accessible: VIDEOS.

I kept something from you.

Don’t be mad.  I’m making up for it today.

A week ago last Friday I held a special event at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre sponsored by Spring Awakening and The Broadway League, just for the Leaders in the industry (Broadway League Members, Union Leadership, Non-Profit Executives, etc., etc.).  I wanted to invite you all . . . honestly I did.  But, well, there just wasn’t going to be room in the theater for everyone, so we kept this one private.

But don’t worry, I captured it all on video so I could share it with you today.  See?  I got your back.

What was the subject of the symposium I sponsored?  It was all about “How to Make Broadway More Accessible.”

What I loved about producing Spring Awakening was that it’s a great example of art that entertains and also inspires change.  Since Spring had such a profound effect on me and how I see and hear the world, I wanted to make sure that the rest of the industry got a little exposure to what I was fortunate enough to feel over the last six months.

So, I invited the thought leaders in the Broadway biz to listen to some of the thought leaders in the accessibility world . . . including Timothy Shriver, the Chairman of Special Olympics, who delivered our keynote, and a panel of experts including Victor Calise (Commissioner of Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities), Lisa Goring (Executive Vice President of Programs and Services at Autism Speaks), David J. Kurs (Artistic Director of Deaf West Theatre) and Annie Leist (Special Projects Lead of Art Beyond Sight).  And then I got our industry’s accessibility advocate, Tory Bailey of TDF, to moderate the panel.

What followed was . . . well . . . pretty cool.  But I’m not going to give it away.  Because the videos are all here.  I hope they inspire you in the same way producing Spring inspired me . . . to not only think about how we can make Broadway more accessible . . . but to take some action, however small, to make that a reality.


Click here to watch the video of my Opening Remarks.

Click here to watch the Keynote speech by Timothy Shriver.

Click here to watch the panel discussion.

Click here to watch a special performance from the cast of Spring Awakening.

The videos are captioned, and transcripts for all of the above are available on each page.


(Got a comment? I love ‘em, so comment below! Email Subscribers, click here then scroll down to say what’s on your mind!)

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  • Luci Jo DeVoy says:

    What an amazing opportunity to listen to not only the panel speak but to really absorb what Timothy Shriver spoken on. I am absolutely floored watching this. Thank you for thinking to sharing this.

  • mary mccabe says:

    cant wait to watch these! so excited this is finally being addressed! I am primarily bed-ridden/housebound due to chronic pain. However, I LOVE Broadway, it has saved my life. I listen to soundtracks all the time. In fact, in a procedure under sedation/anesthesia yesterday, i woke up SINGING the HAMILTON soundtrack. Seeing a show even live streamed like when you live streamed “daddy long-legs” is remarkable. Makes me happier than a kid in a candy store. Going to NYC is very hard for me. Painful to sit in a seat that long , painful to travel the 2.5 hours there, in the summer the heat is very hard for me, the winter the cold, rain flares me. Went in August to see King and I and Something Rotten and my body was so sick and didn’t recover until DECEMBER. Wish there was a way for me to stream shows even older ones (i know there is that new site but they have mostly old stuff from England or stuff like Memphis that i already own) I would pay.

  • Kit says:

    The issue of accessibility has always been a head scratcher for me when it comes to Broadway. Broadway has for years worked under the assumption that more exposure (videos, streaming, etc.) would lead to less revenue at the physical box office, but this line of thinking is clearly wrong. To me it’s like all the people who claimed that “the horseless carriage is simply a fad.”

    Here are some simple numbers: ONE Broadway show made $100 million (Lion King – $102 million) across the 52 weeks of 2015, while 28 Films managed to make that sum. With most of the 28 far exceeding it.

    I know that the goals of the two mediums are vastly different and that shows have tours and other non-Broadway runs that bring in revenue, but the only difference here is ACCESSIBILITY. You can argue that theater is more about “the Art,” but if that is truly the case then it shouldn’t cost over $100 to see a show.

  • Jason says:

    Mr. Davenport, as an ordinary New York theatergoer, I’d like thank you for bringing such a vibrant, moving, necessary production of Spring Awakening back to Broadway. (Seen it several times!) Tim Shriver is absolutely right that this is not about accommodation, but celebration; this was not a show FOR the Deaf community, but an astonishing gift of art FROM them. I look forward to the day when more and more Broadway shows include the full range of human ability and possibility onstage, not just because it’s the right thing to do, but because it makes for better, truer, more honest art.

    As for more accessibility for viewers, I wonder what your thoughts are on making video of this production available to Deaf schools and communities, or perhaps streaming a performance of it as you did with “Daddy Longlegs,” for the benefit of Deaf or other viewers who would otherwise find it difficult to see the production. I believe there is currently a petition circulating to ask the NY Public Library to release their archived video of the show, but I imagine there would be difficulties with rights issues, and I wonder if it’s more appropriately a question for the show’s producers. Would love to know what you think of this if you feel inclined to respond. Thanks again.

  • Jerry Bergman says:

    As an advocate for people with hearing loss, I was disappointed that almost nothing was said about the need for more and better hearing accessibility on Broadway and that no representative of the hearing loss community was included in the program. The exception was the comment by panelist David J. Kurs that, in comparison to almost all cinemas today which provide closed captioning, “Broadway has a lot to do to catch up with the film industry.”

    I have pointed out for years that the assistive listening systems provided at Broadway houses serve those with modest hearing loss, but are useless for most of us with severe-profound hearing loss who wear hearing aids and have cochlear implants. The two types of accessibility that work for us are: 1) closed captioning for the deaf and hearing impaired, and 2) hearing induction loop systems that transmit sound wirelessly to telecoils in hearing devices.

    Regrettably, closed captions are only available at five of the longest-running, most profitable shows on Broadway. At those five shows anyone can obtain a tablet on which to read every word of dialogue and lyrics.

    Equally regrettably, only four Broadway theaters have as yet installed hearing loop systems. All four are operated by the Nederlander Organization, which is making their theaters hearing accessible as they are being renovated. Why is Nederlander the only theater organization to believe in hearing accessibility?

    There are over a million New Yorkers with measurable hearing loss and another 10 million annual visitors to the City with hearing loss. TDF’s TAP program, offering occasional captioned performances is nice. But it falls far short of providing equal access to people with severe hearing loss. Imagine if wheelchair access was only available for certain performances on certain days.

    I started compiling a list of live entertainment venues across the country that have installed hearing loops. The list is already over 70. Why are only four Broadway theaters included?

  • This is not the first time that people who are hard of hearing were omitted from the discussion. It is a recurring issue which led to this article: Access for people who are deaf is critical but it does not solve the issue for people who are hard of hearing.

    Providing access for people with hearing loss is not that complicated but there has to be a commitment from the theaters. It was pathetic that even Spring Awakening did not offer proper hearing access when the show included hearing loss as part of its theme.

    Hearing Access means:

    1-Assistive Listening System with the preferred system by people with hearing loss being a hearing induction loop. and
    2-Captioning and
    3-Sign Language Interpretation

    All three need to be in place to reach the full spectrum of people with hearing loss.

    Hearing induction loops have not been implemented on Broadway until the Nederlanders added them because Sound Associates had a stranglehold on the theaters. Thankfully, the Nederlanders have broken this lock jam but it is time for Schubert and other theaters to start adding hearing induction loops. No one should have to wear a device or hope the device works to see a show. Most of the time, they do not. I was the person who had to train Sound Associates staff and ensure that neck loops were available which is ridiculous.

    The biggest issue for people who need captioning is that captions are only available when TDF offers it which means by their own mandate the tickets must be discounted. People who are hard of hearing should not have to wait for discounted tickets to see a performance. A person who needs captions should be able to see the show when it opens.

    PDAs are not acceptable access since it is impossible to watch the show and look at a small screen. If drivers cannot text while driving then people with hearing loss cannot view two places at the same time.

    It is now 25 years after the ADA and it is time for theaters to start offering effective communication for people with hearing loss. This will only happen when panels like this include people with hearing loss.

    Janice S. Lintz, CEO, Hearing Access & Innovations

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